Tuesday, November 29, 2011

BiblioLabs releases new iPad app for the British Library's 19th Century Collection: Victorian Christmas

With the Thanksgiving Day holiday now past us, and with crazy American shoppers busy pepper spraying each other over two dollar waffle irons, one knows that we are entering the Christmas season.

Since this is the second holiday season since the introduction of the iPad, one would imagine that developers are ready with some new apps to celebrate the season. The one that is getting the most play inside the App Store is the $6.99 app from Loud Crow Interactive, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The universal app has received good reviews from buyers, discounting complaints about the price of the lack of audio (probably the fault of the user).
So let's ignore that one and instead look at a new app, released today, from the British Library, released under the BiblioLabs LLC name. Victorian Christmas is the third app released by BiblioLabs, and the second one that is clearly for the British Library's 19th Century Collection.

That first app was free and gave readers access to over 30,000 books from its collection, with the more books added over time. The app gives the reader access to some material, but to access the entire digitized collection a $2.99 per month subscription is required. (You can read more about that app here.)

The new app takes a different approach in that there is a one-time fee of $9.99 (£6.99 in the UK App Store) which then gives the reader access to the collection.

The app gives the reader a portrait only reading experience which is probably justified both by the fact that the books were digitized this way, and that it really is an eBook experience one gets with the app (the app is found under the Books category, as you might expect).

There is a lot of material here so I would say that the price certainly is justified, but we all know how price sensitive App Store buyers are, so it will be interesting to see their reaction.

There are six categories of material here: Christmas Past, Drama, Music, Novels, Poetry, and Short Stories. And yes, you will find Dicken's A Christmas Carol here (in its 1869 edition), as well as other familiar classics. But the adventurous reader will also find material written in Latin and French, and lots of unfamiliar and interesting published works.

Of course, the real value here is that now a reader can access work only found within this collection, and without the cost of a flight to England.

By the way, this is the second paid app from BiblioLabs. The first was Library of Witchcraft and Magic, released before Halloween. That app also cost $9.99 but didn't seem to gather much interest from the public with only two reviews inside the UK App Store, both of which was full of complaints. We'll see if the Christmas spirit makes iPad owners more generous with the comments concerning Victorian Christmas.

Left: the main menu which appears after the splash page; Middle: the Music book category; Right: the Novels category with Dicken's A Christmas Carol.